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Brighter Futures: A Simple, Decent, Place to Live

May 12, 2017

Another Way for week of May 12, 2017

Habitat Brings Brighter Futures: A Simple, Decent, Place to Live

What does having your own home mean to you, if indeed you are so fortunate? What does it mean for your children?

We went to a fundraising banquet for our local chapter of Habitat for Humanity recently. It was meaningful to be reminded of what having a simple, decent place to live (one of the mottoes of this fine organization) can mean in the life of a child and family. It can mean the difference between a child’s ability to thrive and succeed in school, with friends, and in life–or not.

Jeff Carr was the keynote speaker at this annual fundraising dinner and I think I would have enjoyed Jeff’s speech even if he hadn’t been one of my oldest daughter’s first playmates at the age of one year. Jeff is senior pastor for a large Church of the Brethren congregation, and he called his speech, “Bright Futures and a Peanuts Mailbox.”

Jeff may be a “senior” pastor but he’s only in his mid thirties. I was not too surprised to hear that when his oldest son Gabe was just three going on four, he proposed the idea to collect donations for Habitat for Humanity in his little red Peanuts mailbox.

In the run up to his birthday that year, he let his parents know he wanted presents of course, but he also wanted to collect money and give it to Habitat for his birthday. This likely sprang from his parents’ avid support of our Central Valley Habitat for Humanity Chapter for many years.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Young Gabe’s grandmother, Gwen is my friend who was recently ordained to ministry in the Presbyterian Church, a latecomer to ordination. She is one of the most caring, giving, creative, and all round beautiful people I know. Her son Jeff and my oldest daughter Michelle were born nine months apart, and I’ll never forget how Gwen reached out to me as a new mother with tips (she put together a whole notebook), moral support, gifts for our newborn, hand-me-downs, and play dates once Michelle was old enough to toddle. Little Jeff (and his family) attended her very first birthday party.

Gabe’s great grandparents, Mac and Ellen (above), were charter members of the church we’ve been a part of for over 45 years. If Gwen and her son Jeff, and his sons Gabe and Nate have generosity and “thinking of others” as part of their natures, I know where they got at least part of their inclination for kindness: great grandma and grandpa. Serving others through whatever means possible has always been part of the DNA of our small but bighearted congregation.

People such as Gabe, Jeff, his grandma, great grandparents, and oodles of others support and volunteer with Habitat because it so transformational: changing the lives of families as it helps lower-income persons find affordable housing and achieve the dream of home ownership. Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat, had the idea that people who were willing to invest their own “sweat equity” into helping build their own home and also homes for others, could end up with an affordable mortgage for a small decent home. Many become homeowners for the first time in their lives.

Habitat also transforms and solidifies communities because home ownership means families who care about their house, yard, and investment, which begets more stable communities, and often surrounds families with caring neighbors. Marsha Smith, who just finished nine years serving as executive director of the Central Valley chapter, summarized it this way: “The simple, decent homes we build with families provide the foundation for safety and security and serve as the center for family interaction, study and growth.”

Personally, there was no better motivation for me to give than seeing young Gabe holding up his little Peanuts mailbox for Habitat for Humanity. And I have no doubt his little brother Nate will be right behind him! (When he gets done scooping up the sweets. 🙂 )


Who or what inspires you to give or to volunteer? Comment below or send your stories or comments to or Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, Va. 22850.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books, most recently Whatever Happened to Dinner. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  


Ten years ago I helped to produce the TV documentary, Building on Faith: Making Poverty Housing History, for Habitat, NBC-TV, and other organizations. More info on that here (although the documentary is dated and no longer for sale).

  1. Beverly Silver permalink

    Wonderful entry, Melodie! I am going to forward it on to Gwen and Mac and Ellen! Beverly

  2. Our own church is doing a series on generosity this Easter season. The stories people tell, like yours above, of how others have modeled generosity, and how small sacrifices have yielded big rewards for others (as well as for self), have been truly inspiring.

    The happiest people I know are also the most generous. I can see that combination in the faces in this post.

    • Love the idea of a generosity series. I debated including the faces of the grandmother (Gwen) and the father (Jeff) but decided the point came across without that evidence. 🙂 These are people who have gone through some tough times too, as most families do. Thanks for your reminder and affirmation, Shirley.

  3. Athanasia permalink

    I like the little paint can. Do you remember how they were made? Is that construction paper over laying it? What is making the actual can shape? I know this is not really the comment you were looking for but I am often told I am off topic. It interests me as it looks like a good idea that could be used for a future project, like at a men’s breakfast or a youth mission fund raiser or a shower etc etc.

    Well of course our church encourages volunteerism, whether with the church itself or in our local community or our world community. My parents encouraged us to volunteer and always have a volunteer activity to be involved in outside of our helping in church. We did 4H, FFA, FHA…those kinds of things. I volunteered in the school library and the public library. When I was old enough I was hired at the public library.

    My parents both worked with the Red Cross in the disaster relief area and at the blood drives. My mother just recently retired from the blood drives…she stopped the disaster portion as she did not want to do the travel part without my father. If the volunteer job involves construction of any kind you can count on my husband to be there as with Habitat or the relief service. Our children have helped with Habitat also.

    • I thought they were very cute too. Yes, it was all construction paper, with a harder paper, perhaps light cardboard, for the bottom circle. I think they just cut lengths of light wire and of course used stickers for the name and logo. They probably took a great deal of time, but effective! Thanks for asking and I’m sorry I don’t have ours anymore to examine more closely.

      • Athanasia permalink

        Thanks for the information.

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